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Rescuers in choppers reach Himalaya quake villages

GANGTOK, India (AP) — Rescue workers in helicopters and earth movers raced Monday to reach Indian villages cut off by mudslides after a powerful earthquake killed 53 people and damaged more than 100,000 homes in the remote Himalayan region, officials said.

Three emergency workers were killed in the frantic, rain-soaked rescue effort. More than 6,000 troops worked to clear concrete slabs, bricks and mud to rescue scores of people trapped under houses that collapsed when the 6.9-magnitude quake struck the mountainous region Sunday evening.

Nine helicopters dropped food to villages, airlifted a medical team, evacuated the injured and conducted damage assessments, Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh said. Heavy construction equipment was used to clear some of the blocked roads, he said.

“The rescue and relief operations are in full swing though they were hampered … by poor weather,” he said.

At least 32 people died and 100 others were injured in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, where the quake was centered near India’s border with Nepal, Singh said. At least 10 of those killed worked for the same hydroelectric project, he said. It was not immediately clear how they died.

Seven other people were killed the neighboring Indian states of Bihar and West Bengal, he said.


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